Esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the esophagus, a tube-like structure that runs from the throat down to the stomach. There are two main types of esophageal cancer – squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a condition in which abnormal squamous cells (the cells that make up part of the mucous membrane that lines the esophagus) divide and spread uncontrollably. In the past, squamous cell carcinomas were responsible for nearly 90% of all esophageal cancers. However, they now make up less than 50% of esophageal cancers.

Adenocarcinomas occur in glandular tissue and not in squamous tissue. Before an adenocarcinoma can develop, glandular cells must replace an area of squamous cells, as in the case of Barrett’s esophagus. This transformation is most common in the lower esophagus, which is the site of most adenocarcinomas.

Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer

The following are the most common risk factors for esophageal cancer:

  • Smoking or other use of tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. In fact, the majority of Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are related to GERD.
  • Barrett's esophagus is a condition that affects the lower part of the esophagus and is caused by GERD. Over time, it can cause changes in the cells of the esophagus that increase the risk for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  • In addition, men, the elderly, and African-Americans are at greater risk for developing esophageal cancer.

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is a difficulty swallowing (known as dysphagia). This is often accompanied by a sensation of food being stuck in the throat or chest. Approximately half of all esophageal cancer patients also experience weight loss due to the inability to swallow properly. Other less common symptoms include: Hoarseness, hiccups and bloody stools, which may indicate non-cancerous conditions as well.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek proper evaluation and treatment from a healthcare expert experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer and other gastroesophageal conditions.

Expert Care You Can Trust!

The Hoag Digestive Disease Center, in alliance with USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, continues to lead the way in complex gastroesophageal care, providing access to a highly specialized surgical team that works collaboratively with Hoag-affiliated thoracic surgeons, gastroenterologists and medical oncology specialists to provide academic-level care. Hoag’s committed to accurate diagnosis, combined with progressive therapeutic options enables Hoag patients to achieve some of the highest clinical outcomes in the nation.

To schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, or a second-opinion consultation with a Hoag gastroesophageal expert, visit Meet the Team, or call us at: 888-566-9712.